May 22, 2019

Counterintelligence Responsibilities and the 2020 Election: What Are the Rules of the Road?

By Carrie Cordero

The attorney general has now directed John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, to examine how the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election began, along with related investigations of Trump campaign affiliates. The new directive appears to be in response to the president’s repeated urging to “investigate the investigators,” although so far, early indications suggest that Durham is conducting a “review” and not an “investigation.” In an interview with Fox News, the attorney general elaborated on the reasoning behind his directive to Durham, saying that he has so far not gotten adequate answers to his questions about the origins of the investigation, and that while it’s important to look at foreign influence, it’s also important to look at whether government agents abused their power. He further defended his use of accusations that “spying” took place. And the president has accused former officials of “treason” —an accusation that, in any other political environment in my lifetime, would have triggered a far more dramatic response from Congress, the media and the public.

Despite these comments by the president and the attorney general, there are serious reasons to conduct a review of policies and procedures governing national security investigations involving political campaigns. It is important to ensure that investigators have the proper legal guidance, policy direction and rules of the road to do their jobs as the country approaches the 2020 election. But the administration’s rhetoric diminishes the legitimate value that this review could bring.

Read the full article in Lawfare.

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